Prince Al

Prince Al

Al Gore will be playing a special political role in the future.


After this, four Gore years? Is the Democratic Party stuck with Prince Al until the next election? Did Campaign 2004: Bush versus Gore II begin the moment the Supreme Court issued its 5-to-4 decision? The bad blood created by the disposition of this election will not disappear quickly. The bitterness of this round's losers could even dwarf the profound disappointment of pro-impeachment Americans. In fact, the balance of emotions in US politics may well shift. Those who were upset that Clinton escaped impeachment conviction and who craved revenge are now able to claim George W. Bush's win as vindication and wallow in satisfaction; those who welcomed Bill Clinton's acquittal and who saw Republican losses in 1998 as just deserts for the impeachment crusade are now the aggrieved and outraged. And perhaps they'll feel it is time to seek retribution and justice. As Republicans and conservatives were furiously motivated by Monicagate and impeachment, so the Democrats and their liberal allies could be moved by Bush's Supreme Court-assisted victory–though it's hard to envision Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt bearing a grudge as fiercely as Tom DeLay and Trent Lott. In fact, several conservative Democrats–Senator John Breaux and the Blue Dogs of the House–have already stuck out their hands, realizing that with Bush in the White House and Congress split, their deal-making influence can be enhanced.

The Democratic Party as a whole may not forge a unified (and passionate) anti-Bush front, and that could sharpen the pre-existing tensions between the party's progressives and conservatives. It's unlikely that African-American voters in Florida (and perhaps elsewhere) will forget what many consider to be a Bush-led Republican effort to disfranchise their community. Certainly, any Republican official in Florida not in a safe seat should worry–especially if he or she represents an area with a large African-American population. Black voter turnout in Florida in 2002, when Governor Jeb Bush will be up for re-election, ought to be astronomical. (Would it be too high a price for George W. Bush to win the presidency at the cost of his brother's GOP in Florida? Nah.) But beyond Florida, will Gore try to ride a wave of resentment–become the Democratic Nixon, a Veep who loses closely and waits in the wings? If Gore does, will anyone in the party attempt to knock him off this mount of anger?

The arguments on each side are obvious. Gore partisans will assert that he really won and deserves another shot at the White House, which is rightfully his–particularly if a subsequent counting of the Florida ballots does show that Gore drew more votes than Bush. Other Dems can reply that Gore, whatever the injustices, did not prevail at a time that was tremendously favorable for an incumbent Vice President. But in party politics, it is tough to bounce the apparent leader. In 1984 the Democratic Party could not shake itself free of Walter Mondale, its most recent Vice President–and Mondale, unlike Gore, had lost decisively in 1980 as President Jimmy Carter's ticket partner. The Republicans could not avoid Bob Dole in 1996. And in 2000, both parties embraced the party-establishment candidates, each of whom thwarted a maverick challenger with crossover appeal. Can Joseph Lieberman dare challenge Gore? (That ingrate!) Can those rule of law-citing Democrats who battled for Gore during Recount-O-Rama, like Senators John Kerry and Bob Kerrey, block Gore's quest for justice? The Supreme Court's decision installed Bush in the White House, and it probably installed Gore–if he decides to stay in this line of work–as the permanent Democratic contender for the throne.

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